The United States is "doing the right thing" by pursuing a diplomatic solution to the threat that Iran may soon gain a nuclear weapon, but the world cannot afford to wait too long, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday.

Barak said he supports the US focus on tougher economic sanctions against Teheran, and the United States is the only world power that can muster a coordinated global effort to deter Iran through economic pressure.

"Only time will tell to what extent they are really effective," Barak said after meetings at the Pentagon with the top US civilian and uniformed officials. He warned that if the world waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that would "change the landscape" of the entire world, not just of the Middle East.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned in a secret memo in January that the United States needed more forethought and more options as Iran edges closer to the time when it could build a weapon. He would not go further Tuesday.

"I'm very satisfied with the planning process" at the Pentagon and elsewhere within the Obama administration, Gates said during a news conference with Barak. "We spend a lot of time on Iran, and we'll continue to do so."

Iran and the rearming of Hizbullah were major topics of Barak's session at the Pentagon. He met earlier Tuesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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